We call it Pizza and God Talk.
Of all of the ministries that Wooddale Senior High does, nothing is changing hearts as much as this one.
Every other week 40-80 students meet at a Uno’s Restaurant in Edina, Minnesota to discuss what questions they have on their mind. If you want to read about the amazing history of Pizza and God Talk check out this link: http://www.wooddale.org/PDF/Week/ThisWeek051023.pdf. You’ll find an article about it on the Children and Youth page.
Last night’s Pizza and God Talk brought up a couple questions that I hear often. They are important questions that students deal with all of the time. Because these qustions are so important I wanted to devote a bit of space to openly discuss these questions here.
Here are the questions in paraphrase form:
1) Brian, I have given up so much to follow God. And, I feel like God is silent. I just feel like I need God to give me some sign to show me that He’s real. Why doesn’t God do that?
2) Brian, I have been a Christian for a long time now. I have read through the entire Bible. I have read lots of Christian books. I just feel distant from God now. What do I need to do to feel God’s presence in my life?
The rule at Pizza and God Talk is that students have to take turns answering the questions first, and then if they can’t answer it, an adult takes a stab at it.
These types of questions are the toughest to answer. Why? Because we’ve all been there. We’ve all had times where God seems distant, where our faith grows cold, and where our spiritual lives seem more like monotany than vibrant relationship with God. But, let me suggest something that would be good for all of us to remember when we have these questions.
What is the common denominator behind these questions? It’s that they view God through the lens of self rather than viewing self through the lens of God. We Christians are quick to foget just how much God has done for us. We’re quick to forget the lessons that He has taught us. We want God to work like a supercomputer, giving us the answers to our prayers in lightning quick speed. We want Him to give us what we want, not what He knows we need. We want a the lessons that God is going to take a lifetime to teach us to be learned in a moment.
That’s not how God works. He never has.
When it comes to asking God for signs, we’re off base. It was only on a very few occassions in Scripture that God revealed Himself or His will through signs. Hebrews 11 is one of the greatest chapters in Scripture. It is the record of those who followed God by faith. Most of these characters never received a sign from God telling them exactly what God wanted.
Here’s what God has given us. He gave us the Bible. His will for how we are to live our lives is recorded there. But, He also gave us more. He’s not a cold hearted God who said, “Here, read, find out my will in a book.”
John 1 tells us that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” God gave us God. The student who asked for a sign did so because he felt like he had given up so much. He wondered what God had done for him. The student had given up a lot. He had left behind a life that had held him captive for so long. There was a battle going on within the student that made him feel like maybe it wasn’t worth it to have given up so much to follow God. But, it was. The student, viewing God from the lens of self, thought of all that he had to give up, and forgot all that God had to give up in order for the student to be forgiven. When reminded of God’s supreme sacrifice, the student’s need for a sign began to vanish. God had already given him everything he needed.
The next step for the student in finding the contenment that God wants him to experience is for him to begin to live his life the way that God designed him to live it — to discover the unique purpose for which he was created. I began to share with the student the strengths that I see in him — the natural and spiritual gifts that I believe that he has. And, I challenged him to use those gifts. He will never be fulfilled until he is living for his unique purpose. He needs something to take the place of that which he left behind when he followed Christ. He needs to live for what he was created for.
The student who followed Christ for so many years, read the Bible, etc. but felt distant from God also needed to discover his unique purpose. God has a great purpose for each one of us. This student grew up in a Christian home. He’s been going to church since he was in his mother’s womb. He knows so much about God. I told him that until he begins serving God in a purposeful way, he is going to be like the baseball player, who practices with his team every week, but never gets in the game. He sits on the bench, waiting for a chance to hit, but never has a chance to make an impact on the game. We’re not going to feel God if we don’t use the gifts that God has given us, and if we dont’ take God up on God’s challenge to us. Remember what Jesus said before he ascended into heaven?
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
When will we feel Christ’s presence? When He is working in us to accomplish his purposes.
Want to feel Christ? Go out on a limb. Ask Him to use you to accomplish what you cannot accomplish on your own apart from Him. Then there will be no question as to whether or not God is really there.
Here are some of the other tough questions that students regularly ask at Pizza and God Talk.
– How do we know that Christianity is true and other religions aren’t?
– Why do Christians act like jerks to homosexuals, people who have abortions, and people who don’t agree with their political agenda?
– Why did God allow my (friend, parent, sibling, etc.) to die?
– Are the recent hurricanes God’s judgement for the sin of those cities? (Incidentally I thought Diane Sawyer of ABC news answered that question well, when with another questions she said, “If Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgement on New Orleans, then why was the French Quarter the only area of the city that was spared?”)
– Is my (friend, relative, etc.) who wasn’t a Christian burning in hell right now?
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”